A Salute to the Fanbase of the University of Notre Dame

The University of Michigan is special in many, many ways. It is one of the top universities in the world, providing excellent undergraduate and graduate education and producing high level research in nearly every academic field. It has the winningest NCAA football and hockey programs of all time and a strong and vibrant athletic tradition that started well over a century ago. The Michigan football tradition in particular is quite distinguished. Here are some highlights spread over time:

  • Fielding Yost's point-a-minute teams; a dominant force in the early years of college football. Yost's 1901 team is famed for winning the first ever Rose Bowl by a score of 49-0. The game was actually ended eight minutes early when Michigan agreed to Stanford's request to end the game as an act of mercy. After the humiliation suffered by Stanford and the West Coast in general, the Rose Bowl was not played again until 1916. The team is also famous for being the only in college football history to never be scored upon, finishing the year with 550 points for and 0 points against. Interestingly, the 1902 Michigan football team was arguably better, with Michigan going undefeated for a second consecutive season; scoring 644 points and giving up 12.
  • In 1927, Michigan Stadium was built with a capacity of 72,000. Today, it holds 109,901, making it the largest stadium in America. There has not been a crowd smaller than 100,000 at Michigan since the 1975 Indiana game.
  • Michigan won national championships in 1932 and 1933, going undefeated both seasons. Future president Gerald Ford played on these teams.
  • Fritz Crisler coached Michigan from 1938-1947. During his run, Michigan donned the iconic winged helmets and won a National Championship. More importantly, however, was Crisler's invention of the two-platoon system in football, which created separate offensive and defensive units, completely revolutionizing the game.
  • Bo Schembechler's Ten Year War (1969-1978) with Woody Hayes is one of the iconic stretches of any rivalry in football. It included one of the greatest upsets in college football history, when Michigan defeated Ohio State in 1969. Woody Hayes has stated that he believes the 1969 team was the best he ever coached. This elevated the Michigan-Ohio State rivalries into one of the greatest in any sport. Schembechler is one of the iconic coaches of the game and his impact on Michigan football is still felt to this day.
  • Michigan's 1997 team won a national championship featuring Charles Woodson, the only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy in the modern era and the third Heisman winner to start on defense.
  • Michigan acknowledges four rivals: Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Minnesota. Michigan holds a winning record over each of these teams.
All of this prestige and success has led many Michigan fans, including myself, to be rather arrogant about our institution and look down on most other teams. In fact, the Michigan football fanbase has deservedly been labeled as arrogant by many other fanbases. To many this is a negative trait, but I feel that it is in many ways a good thing because it is emblematic of a fanbase that takes pride in its athletic programs (or academic programs, or Michigan's case, both), which leads to arrogance because of the competitive atmosphere that rightly pervades collegiate sports. Of course, arrogance can be a bad thing in college football when it comes without any class, but even so, an arrogant fanbase can be something to be proud of.

This leads me to Notre Dame. While Michigan's fanbase is undoubtedly arrogant, our sense of self-importance and prestige will never equal Notre Dame's. Because no matter how awesome we are, we will never be able to delude ourselves into believing that a first-rate academic institution that ranks in the top 5 winningest football programs of all time has an inferiority complex and is consumed with envy over us. So on the eve of playing our number three rival, I will take the opportunity to salute the Notre Dame fanbase, which has reached a level of arrogant narcissism that we lowly Michigan fans will never be able equal.

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